Helping the homeless is a great way to get involved in your community. Area shelters are always in need of volunteers, and you can donate blankets and other items that will make a positive difference in the lives of the less fortunate. If you’re looking for ideas on what to donate or how to help, consider the suggestions in this guide.

Toiletries

Many homeless shelters need toiletries of all kinds for their residents. Donations of shampoo, body wash, deodorant, nail clippers and shaving supplies help the homeless tremendously, enabling them to maintain their personal care routines during a challenging time in their lives. In particular, feminine hygiene products are needed, and dental hygiene items, such as toothbrushes, toothpaste and floss, are appreciated as well. These items help people stay comfortable, and dental hygiene items could help prevent tooth decay in a population that cannot normally access professional dental care.

Food

Food donations to support the homeless can be made to local shelters and food banks. Many food banks face shortages at certain times of the year, and some only have an extremely limited selection of food available. When donating food, consider donating healthy options. Nonperishables, such as healthy canned soups, organic pasta, and spaghetti sauce, are greatly appreciated by the homeless and other food bank users. Some food banks also accept donations of fresh produce, such as bananas, apples and salad items. Many people in need rely on food donations for meals. Having access to healthy options could help them avoid vitamin deficiencies and other health issues that are influenced by nutrition.

Blankets

Blankets are essential for the homeless during colder months. They can be used to provide warmth on a cold day spent outdoors, and they may also be used as bedding or as a cover for a bed at the homeless shelter. There are many places to donate blankets. Churches and local charities often hold special clothing drives for blankets and other cold-weather items during the winter months, and area schools may also take blankets at certain times. Some organizations accept gently used blankets by mail as well.

Time

Many organizations that serve the homeless welcome volunteers who can give a few hours of their time. Giving of your time helps shelters run more smoothly, and it enables staff to serve the needy more efficiently. Volunteers are often able to choose which tasks they would like to complete. For example, some individuals choose to help by folding clothes or doing laundry for residents, and others prepare and serve meals.

By donating your time and goods to the less fortunate, you help make your community a more positive place to live. For more ways to help, check your local community calendar and the newsletters of area churches and charity groups.